Too late for family that won education funding case to benefit from it

Stephanie McCleary says she would be proud if the lawsuit she brought 10 years ago benefits the school children of Washington. (Photo: KOMO News)

OLYMPIA, Wash. -- A budget compromise to the state's education funding issue is due in the next two weeks, otherwise the state faces a partial shutdown.

Even if one is reached it comes too late for the family that brought the initial lawsuit, the McCleary family.

The family took this case on in 2007 hoping for a quick fix to help their children and all school children in the state. They had no idea it would stretch on for 10 years, which means it won't help their kids at all.

"At first it was disbelief," said Stephanie McCleary shocked that it's taken a decade for action. But still no final resolution from the state Legislature despite the mandate from the State Supreme Court that lawmakers fully fund education in what's called the McCleary Decision. "I was just surprised because when you talk to your kids about obeying the law, 'a law is a law.' "

The decision says the state should treat each district and each student fairly regardless of whether it's an affluent district or not. She began the effort with the Venema family and attorney Thomas Ahearne when she realized her small Chimacum school district wasn't getting the same treatment as a nearby district. "They had every child had a computer and in every classroom," she said "They had course offerings and things that we didn't have the opportunity for. We struggled to find a Spanish teacher out here."

It is a struggle she started when her son, Carter, was 7 years old and her daughter, Kelsey, was 13. But they grew up before our eyes as the case dragged on. Now as the case nears completion Kelsey has graduated from college and Carter just graduated from high school.

"It comes too late for my own kids to see any benefit of it," said McCleary. "I stopped holding out hope for that awhile ago. However, it was never about just us. It's about all students in the state of Washington."

As lawmakers come down to the June 30 deadline, she's skeptical about a victory. But if it really happens she said, "I would be proud. I think I'd finally be proud."

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